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Safe sleeping

It’s important to make sure your baby sleeps safely in order to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is the unexplained death, usually during sleep, of a seemingly healthy baby less than a year old. SIDS used to be known as cot death. Around 130 babies die in the UK as a result of unsafe sleeping, it is important to follow all of our advice below to ensure your baby is safe.

Follow the safe sleeping guidelines below to reduce the risk for your baby:

  • Always place your baby on their back to sleep, for every sleep, as the risk of SIDS is much higher for babies who are sometimes placed on their tummy or side.
  • Once they start to roll onto their tummy to sleep you can leave them to find their own position. Giving them lots of tummy time when they are awake will help them to strengthen the muscles they need for rolling.
  • Place your baby in the ‘feet to foot’ position with their feet touching the end of the cot, Moses basket or pram.
  • Keep your baby’s head uncovered and if you are using blankets tuck them in no higher than their shoulders.
  • The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot or Moses basket in the same room as you for their first six months, night and day.
  • Use a firm, flat, waterproof mattress that’s in good condition.
  • Keep the baby's cot clear to reduce the risk of any accidents as it is extremely dangerous if anything covers the baby's head - keep it clear of toys, bumpers, pillows or loose bedding etc.
  • Do not use a pillow as this has been shown to increase the risk of SIDS by up to 2.5 times.
  • Never allow anyone to sleep on a sofa or chair with your baby as this is extremely dangerous. One study found that approximately one-sixth of infants in England and Wales who died of SIDS were found sleeping with an adult on a sofa. Sleeping with a baby on a sofa can increase the risk of infant death on by 50 times. If you think you might fall asleep accidentally, put the baby down in a safe place to sleep.
  • Don’t smoke during pregnancy or let anyone smoke in the same room as you and your baby, before and after birth. Do not share a bed with your baby if you have been smoking. Scientific evidence shows smoking during pregnancy or around your baby could be linked to 60% of sudden infant deaths.
  • Don’t let your baby get too hot or too cold, a room temperature of 16-20 degrees C is ideal, with light bedding or a lightweight baby sleeping bag. Use a room thermometer and check the temperature of the baby by touching their chest or back as their hands and feet will often be cooler.
  • Breastfeeding lowers the risk of SIDS, and the longer you can breastfeed if possible the more protection you will give your baby.
  • Some research suggests that giving your baby a dummy to go to sleep could reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • If you choose to swaddle your baby ensure it is not too tight, that they are not too hot, use thin materials and never put them down to sleep on their front.
  • No product can reduce the risk of SIDS so be cautious of any product that makes this claim. There is no need for any pods, nests or positioners.
  • Babies who are born before 37 weeks or under 2.5kg are particularly vulnerable so it's especially important to follow all of this advice.

Safe co-sleeping

Some parents choose to sleep in the same bed as their baby. Bed sharing increases the risk of SIDS, so if you choose to co-sleep with your baby, follow all of the advice above and the specific guidelines below to make it as safe as possible.

  • Don’t share your bed if you or your partner smoke, even if you don’t smoke in the room you’re sleeping in
  • Don’t share your bed if you or your partner have been drinking alcohol or taking drugs, including medication that might make you drowsy
  • Don’t share your bed with your baby if you’re very tired
  • Don’t put your baby’s head on a pillow
  • Always place your baby on their back to sleep.
  • Keep your baby’s head uncovered with their blanket tucked in no higher than their shoulders: a baby sleeping bag would be the best cover for them to use so that their head cannot slip and become covered.
  • Keep all adult pillows, duvets etc away from your baby and ensure that nothing could cover their head or allow them to overheat.
  • Do not allow any pets or other children to also share the bed.
  • Do not share a bed if your baby was born premature or is very small.
  • Make sure your baby cannot fall out or get trapped between the bed and the wall.
  • Never sleep on a sofa or armchair with your baby, this can increase the risk of SIDS by over 50 times.
  • If you feel you may fall asleep while breastfeeding, prepare the bed as described above to ensure it's a safe place should you fall asleep.

If you’re worried about your baby, talk to your GP or call NHS 111 for advice.

Call 999 straight away if your baby:

  • Stops breathing or turns blue
  • Is struggling for breath
  • Is unconscious or seems unaware of what’s going on
  • Won’t wake up
  • Has a fit for the first time, even if they seem to recover

You can find additional support online by visiting:

The Lullaby Trust, Public Health England, Unicef UK Baby Friendly and Basis have collaborated to provide parents and professionals guidance and information regarding safe sleeping - visit the website for lots of easy to use resources.

The Lift the Baby Safer Sleeping Campaign explains the importance of safe sleeping with your baby.

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